Two weeks into Exercise month of my Habit Experiment, and I’ve already learned a lot about myself.
For one, I hate keeping emotion journals. To be fair, I already knew this, but for some reason I keep trying them and every time I do, I have to learn again that I hate them. I gave up on my habit journal after three days.
Another thing I already knew about myself but was surprised to learn again is that I dislike half measures. I set up this very reasonable Habit Experiment, adding one habit a month so I wouldn’t become overwhelmed and so I would increase my chances of success. But “reasonable” is so boring and, because I don’t like boredom, reasonable things are unsustainable. So, I made some changes.
1) I’m waking up at 5:15 every morning to write for thirty minutes before I go for my walk, and I’ve implemented a 9:30 bedtime to help support this early-rising habit. The early wake-up is proving easier than the early bedtime.
2) My thirty-minute morning walk is now a one-hour morning walk, and it has been joined by a half-hour after-lunch walk and an hour-long after-dinner walk. This is because…
3) My steps goal has doubled, from 10,000 steps to 20,000 steps a day.
4) Instead of doing little bits of exercise whenever I feel the internet yen, I’m setting aside a 30- to 40-minute stretch each day to do a Fitness Blender resistance training video.
5) I’ve cut several activities from my schedule, including a couple of volunteer roles and my voice lessons. I’m sad to lose these things, but I’m relieved to have a little more time…to walk.
My spouse worries I’ve gone a little overboard. He invoked data that suggest that you can optimize the health benefits of exercise by walking/jogging 40 miles a week, and any more than 40 miles a week can actually have a detrimental effect on your health. Of course, you’re still healthier than if you didn’t do any exercise, but you’re not as healthy as if you did a reasonable amount of exercise. He worries that because I’m on pace to walk 61.5 miles this week, I’m damaging my health.
I worry that because he’s reading these studies, he might not be up for our proposed Appalachian Trail thru-hike in 2022.
“Why are you so into walking all of a sudden?” he asked. At the time I didn’t know, but in the days since, I’ve been able to come up with a possible answer (in addition to the obvious one, that my FitBit inspires in me a compulsion to walk just to see my numbers increase).
I think it all comes down to a need for escape. This is why I retreat to the internet when my kids start getting to me, and this is why walking for 2.5 hours a day works for me. Even though walking around our suburban neighborhood bears a striking resemblance to walking on a treadmill, I’m alone with my thoughts and the occasional eastern cottontail or striped skunk and so the walk meets my need for escape.
And except for the encounters with the skunks and the drivers who think 8 inches is enough clearance to give a pedestrian walking on a road with neither sidewalk nor shoulder, my walks don’t inspire the kind of anxiety in me that the internet does.
This need for escape is, I think, also why it hasn’t worked for me to do little bits of exercise every time I feel the internet yen. Squats and lunges would keep me away from Facebook for a while, but after my set was done, I’d still feel like opening up the laptop. The escape I feel with my walks lasts even after I get home, so I’m on the internet less. (Or maybe I’m just on the internet less because I’m walking for 2.5 hours a day.)
I do fear that my 20,000 steps a day isn’t sustainable. For one, we will eventually come into winter, and even on days when I can walk for 2+ hours outside, I will necessarily have to go slower because it will be dark and icy and my glasses will be covered with frost. I can walk in rain (and did for two hours yesterday), but ice and temps at or below 0°F dramatically decrease my exercise efficiency
Another problem with my current plan is that I have hardly any time for reading or for blogging. And unless I give up this homeschooling gig, I’m going to have to convert some of my walking time to writing time eventually. Or I could get one of those standing treadmill desks and walk while I write…
But for now, this is what I’m doing. And I’ll plan to keep with the 20,000 steps a day (for my short legs, this is roughly 8–9.5 miles a day) at least through September and see how I feel. There’s no need to stop walking now just because I’ll have trouble getting the miles in when the weather turns bad. Maybe by October I will have come up with a way to do all of my walking and writing and reading and homeschooling and volunteering AND sleeping. Or I will have moved onto the next compulsion.